STEPMOTHER’S MONOLOGUE: JUNIPER + CHEST OF APPLES
Buried the grown-ups beneath the juniper tree. I confess,
tombed bone shards & fed the stew to their silly children.
It was me who sheared away nightfall for a winter coat,
dug my ‘99 Honda Odyssey behind the shed & caused
a terrible case of root rot, flooding the dirt with pleasantries.
I’ve devoured dark berries. Nevermind my goodness
or wickedness; I’m a girl—watch how I pick up this pen
with my toes. I’ve preyed on every man with a townhouse
near Gramercy Park, every man who confuses lust
for trust. I bury the men who won’t marry, then always
remarry because men can’t be alone for a second.
I bury seedy nursery rhymes & tangle up the stories;
stash away birdsong in the junk drawer while he eats
his joy, his boy—which head
should I stitch to my shoulders
today? I lie down in the bed, in mommy’s spot. I look good.
From this angle, I am true mother—bloodline & womb.
Reared from a tree hollow where Stepmothers are bred
to obtain maggoty hearts, curdle milk with a look,
where Stepmothers survive on the woods’ beasts. It was me,
raised to be gaunt & harsh, to speak slant as snake
venom; bred to be a vessel for the butchered psyche
of motherhood, plagued with heavenly depravity.
What shall I claim besides pockmarked apples,
quiet revolt? These flaws could ferment, rot me out.
I confess, yes, I shut the chest on the boy’s head,
but before the millstone gets its revenge, answer this:
what is left for my daughter to inherit? The Catskills,
an acre, thimble? Who blames me?
Natalie Louise Tombasco was selected for the Best New Poets anthology 2021,
Copper Nickel's Editor's Prize, and as a published finalist for Cutbank
Books chapbook contest with her manuscript titled Collective Inventions
(2021). She is pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at Florida State
University and serves as the Interviews Editor of the Southeast Review. Her
work can be found in Gulf Coast, Plume, Hobart, Fairy Tale Review,
Yalobusha Review, Southern Indiana Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, among